How neoliberalism works 101, capillary dynamics unit,
or What will only be admitted to 50 years on because this is how people earn their meat:
When, supplicating to Our Dead Hero Frederick Winslow Taylor
, you won’t trust and pay (value) qualitative researchers to research, and instead you’ve efficiently confined all the research management power in legal and Human Subjects Research Ethics bureaucracies that in turn force the development of an attendant managerial class specializing in billowing human subjects and grant applications–as well as in, priest-like, enforcing dogmatic incantations (“Research is all about relationships!”) in defiance of reality, then you won’t have any money left over to pay researchers to develop those qualitative research relationships; and they are by definition parachuting in and grabbing interview data
(slathered with a soothing slime layer of desperate blather about how it’s all about the subjects
, as cribbed straight out of Nescafe and Best Buy consumer marketing), which empties qualitative research of its validity
, even as it keeps some people (managers) floating in middle class waters, while others must scramble together proletarianized research contracts.
Corollaries to this neoliberal capture of qualitative research:
1) It encourages one to appreciate the comparative integrity of other research methods, such as historical, documents, quantitative, etc.
2) The only people who can do valid qualitative research are unproletarianized, semi-independent researchers with ample time and access to subjects, eg. a dissertator, a professor at a liberal arts college.
3) These neoliberal qualitative research practices are consistently defended with:
a) The assertion that it is the research organization that has relationships to the research subjects, not humans. This is alienation. If it were true, it wouldn’t be difficult for the researcher, a mere representative of the dear organization, to interview the subject. But parachuting is difficult, and the results have validity problems.
b) Emotional references to academic management’s historical personal and professional ties to subaltern victim groups. This rhetorical strategy–in which the manager wraps herself/himself in the flag of the oppressed–is supposed to compensate for and justify the labor ethics and validity deficiencies of the neoliberal research management approach.
c) The claim that they facilitate the research training of unskilled students. That happens to a limited extent, but it’s the best case scenario. Because the neoliberal system promotes managerialism, it also, conversely, propels mass proletarianization. We know that this has happened in academia. Qualitative work can be done independently, professionally and ethically by almost everyone who used qualitative research to earn a Master’s degree; they were educated, trained and disciplined and evaluated for precisely this. In a top-heavy neoliberal system, legions of highly-qualified researchers are forced into deskilled research labor; and since it’s deskilled labor, it doesn’t pay enough to survive on; the proletarianized researchers must amass multiple research contracts that do not permit him or her the time to do pro-bono “relationship”-building work. Rather than facilitating students’ training, neoliberal qualitative research practices by and large do just the opposite–they facilitate the deskilling proletarianization of highly-skilled labor.
4) Human Subjects Research Ethics protocols have metastasized malignantly, and are currently grotesquely misapplied to qualitative research to research’s diminishment. In favor of creating expensive administrative overhead in academia, they ruin qualitative research validity, as well as deskill scholarly labor, to no compensatory ethical advantage. Human Subjects Ethics protocols should be imposed solely upon research in which the researcher will not have an ongoing relationship with and be accountable to the research subjects, as in for example physical science experiments, behavioral experiments, and parachute qualitative research.
Now, the above neoliberal qualitative research practices are not confined to feminist researchers, but feminist researchers are a significant force in their propulsion. Neoliberal qualitative researchers such as feminists do not, however, have a monopoly on sacrificing good (valid, valid assumptions, non-trivial, reliable, generalizable) research upon the alter of career survival in the context of the lack of capitalist market and state support for good research. The systematic diminishment of the validity of qualitative research in favor of imposing “efficient” neoliberal managerialism upon scholarship is the feminist social science researcher’s answer to the male quant social science researcher’s careerist war strategy: exclusive male professionalization, in which male social science quants aggressively, competitively define quantitative work–even and especially trivial quantitative work, and quantitative work elaborating upon untenable assumptions of ideological utility to capital–as the limits of “professional” work in the discipline, as per the conservative economics model. Both these sub-communities’ (academic gangs’) approaches sacrifice good research and the integrity and development of other people’s scholarly work in an individualistic (although pyramid-scheme network-dependent) dog-eat-dog fight to survive neoliberalism.
I’m not done with the irrationality of Human Subjects Research Ethics systems that propel administrative (lawyers, managers) expansion at the expense of both good (valid) qualitative research and researcher integrity and capacity. Such systems also consume tremendous institutional and scholarly resources, a crippling distraction from academia’s failure to curb or discipline the main scholarship problem of our time: trivial research based in untenable assumptions, on behalf of the highest-paying patron, as per zombie economics. In this resource misallocation, and this top-heavy institutional diminishment of the importance of evaluating research for its extra-market non-trivialness (Does this contribute to understanding: What is good living? What collective institutions contribute to its development?), Human Subjects Research Ethics institutions today also contribute to the irrelevance and overgrown legitimation function of academia.
Parallel testimony on how lawyers (trained in capitalist property law) ruin the role and healthy functioning of demi-capitalist (here church) institutions. Capitalism doesn’t always create state legitimation crises; sometimes, through domineering colonization, it creates institutional legitimation crises. In either case, some institutions precede capital accumulation, and are not made to function by capitalist goals–even if they orthogonally support a capitalist system and capital depends on non-capitalist relations (Not all the house’s beams can run the same way). It creates enough havoc that capital outsources its crises to these supporting institutions (Eg. ‘Banks fail’ is efficiently converted into ‘welfare states fail.’); but also, as in the university, when the distinction between the goals and procedures of capitalist firms and of demi-capitalist institutions is lost under a shitload of business management (and by the red right hand of warped-Calvinist anxiety to demonstrate election via status and income inequality), the demi-capitalist institution loses its functionality, even its capacity to support capital. This is a good example of contradiction unfolding into crisis.